Several researchers have shown that rap music when introduced in the classroom can serve as an effective tool for language acquisition and literacy in students. This is because it is a form of expression which the youth are familiar with and like, hence it provides a comfortable context within which they can learn better. It also gives them a chance to analyze and explore the important concepts involved in writing and composition (Forell, 2006).
Rap and hip-hop music when used as texts to guide English learning help develop cognitive academic language proficiency as they enhance the ability to function academically in English (Cummins, 1981). Research conducted taking a sample of students from a Basic Writing class showed that when hip-hop rap, which is considered more culturally relevant by Black and other diverse youth groups, was introduced as text, it helped the composition attempts for students and led to more meaningful writing assignments.
Rap pedagogy” should be included by instructors in classroom settings because rappers “challenge hegemonic modes of thought that are embedded in formal education… inverting the master narrative about knowledge. ” When middle and high school students who encountered difficulties in writing exercises were encouraged to take help from the rhetorical rhyming of rap, they started to find it easier to write and their writing started to acquire a flow not present before.
As students explore hip-hop rap, they start becoming aware of how to deconstruct ideas, re-pattern, rearrange and rewrite them. This is a very useful exercise as it teaches students how to develop the skill of thoughtful, persuasive writing. However, educators should remember that the rap which should be used as an aid to language learning should have political, racial and social consciousness (Forell, 2006). Often, children can write standard academic essays but do not see any reason to do so and are just not motivated.
A student in a high school English class admitted that writing raps made him feel more “good, empowered and smart” as compared to the requisite writing for school work. The latter did not require him to write what he thought, felt or valued. Rap on the other hand allowed him to write about things which mattered to him, and even write as a cathartic experience. He identified more with the rap songs he heard and through writing rap, he could develop his own individuality and identity to create texts which would actually make a difference.
This is a very important reason why rap narratives facilitate language acquisition and learning in a classroom setting: students identify with the voices they hear, and become more confident, articulate and able to tell their own story (Forell, 2006). Where official narratives which are handed down through literary canons and historical texts do not strike a chord with students, hip-hop rhymes and rap serve as a means through which culture and identity are transmitted: the important narratives about things which students identify with such as love, respect and friendship end up fulfilling them much more.
This is how they make their own lives relevant, this is a language they understand and this is the life they consider real. Communicating with them through hip-hop rap (a familiar text) is a way of building competency in transferable skills which will enable them to achieve greater aptitude in academic writing (Forell, 2006). Rap songs have various moods, voices, and use different tenses to convey different meanings and a discussion on these could help as a tool to learn about the various styles and choices in writing.
Inclusion of rap in English teaching would help students understand the semantic variations, elements of symbolism and the different orthographic and dialectic changes in words. Introducing hip-hop and rap allows students to actively participate in the process of learning, enhancing their communication and expression abilities, ultimately assisting language acquisition and learning (Forell, 2006).